Ahh…Spring. The days are getting longer (or rather, the amount of daylight we get is getting longer), the temperatures are rising (depending on your geographical location) and all of a sudden we’re getting a little tired of the winter vegetables we’ve been subsisting on for the past 5 months or so.
Enter spring vegetables, in all their glory. Now, before we begin, a disclaimer: Since the weather in the spring can be so unpredictable – with some regions still up to their eyeballs in snow and others enjoying significantly warmer weather – we’ve included a link to a website that can tell you, based on the state that you live in, which fruits and vegetables are reaching their peak.
And so to our top spring season vegetables for 2008…
Bringing to the table a high content of fiber, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and other essential minerals, there isn’t much artichokes can’t do. Specifically, they have been associated with promoting liver health, particularly among folks who drink alcohol heavily or otherwise have compromised liver function, as well as staving off arteriosclerosis, gout, and migraine headaches. In addition, artichokes are thought to improve gall secretions, lower blood sugar, and improve digestion. Not bad, ey?
Although asparagus’s peak season is considered to run from April to May, in warmer climes, the green spears can appear as early as February. In addition to being easy to prepare – steamed, grilled, oven roasted… the choice is yours! – asparagus packs a whopping 114% of recommended daily allowance (RDA) per 1 cup serving of vitamin K, which is important for bone health, and nearly 66% RDA of folate, which helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
Due to the wonders of transport, we can now enjoy avocados virtually year round, even though they’re typically considered a spring fruit on the West Coast and a fall fruit in Florida. (Yes, we know. Not technically a vegetable.) Often times when we discuss avocados, we get caught up in discussing its “good fats.” Specifically, we’re referring here to its oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that is thought to increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL). However, avocado is also considered an excellent source of folate, providing 23% per 1 cup serving, as well as health-promoting carotenoids – whose absorption is aided by the oleic acid – including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein. In addition, a study in October 2007 edition of Seminars in Cancer Biology suggested that the phytonutrients in Haas avocados may stave off oral cancer – which has a 50% mortality rate – by increasing the amount of free radicals within pre-cancerous and cancerous human oral cell lines, leading to their death but causing no harm to surrounding normal cells.
Looks can be deceiving when it comes to celeriac, which despite its knobbled and gnarled appearance, is actually one attractive addition to your diet! Stock up on this vegetable in the spring months for its high levels of vitamin C, vitamin K, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium and manganese, which are important for blood health. In addition to these nutrients, celeriac is an excellent source of dietary fiber, which is important for digestive health and can help you feel satiated for longer.
Unless you live in a relatively mild climate, fennel is one vegetable that is only offered in the spring. Revered for its unique licorice-like flavoring, fennel contains a unique blend of phytonutrients – including the flavonoids rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides – that make it a powerful antioxidant. Specifically, these compounds are thought to reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer, and when combined with fiber, as is the case in fennel, can help eliminate potentially carcinogenic toxins from the colon to prevent colon cancer. Try it with avocado in a delicious salad.
Not only good for adding a touch of whimsy to floral arrangements, fiddlehead ferns—or fiddlehead greens as they are sometimes called – actually taste quite similar to asparagus and offer many of the same health benefits. Specifically, the ferns are an excellent source of vitamin A, which is important for eye health, and a good source of vitamin C, making them a popular choice for warding off scurvy back in the day! In addition, the ferns provide some fiber and are also rich in iron, potassium, niacin, riboflavin, magnesium and phosphorous.
Great for infusing a little flavor into your salad or as a side dish all on their lonesome, mustard greens – whose season runs through the end of April – are perhaps most prized for their high vitamin K, A and C content. Like the three musketeers, these vitamins team up to fight free radicals and protect the body against the types of cell damage that could leave it susceptible to health conditions. In addition, mustard greens contain numerous nutrients that can contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system, including beta-carotene, vitamin B6, folic acid and magnesium. For the ladies, mustard greens also provide calcium to boost bone strength and may also help temper some symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and sleep interruptions.
Although available year-round in the supermarket, we include radishes simply because they won’t be around when the temperature soars and we think you need to get ‘em while the getting’s good! What’s so great about radishes? Well, the little red and white bulbs pack a hefty dose of vitamin C, which serves as both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and also serves as an excellent source of potassium, which is important for kidney and blood health.
Although other onion varieties are available year round, it’s worth stocking up on sweet Vidalia onions during their short spring season. These onions – which make a great addition to salads, dressings and egg dishes – contain more than one hundred sulfur-containing compounds which, in addition to being the cause of the teary eyes, are also thought to reduce the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory ailments. In addition, onions – which log only about 30 calories per 1 cup serving – provide a health dose of flavonoids, which are thought to offer a protective benefit against several forms of cancer, particularly those affecting the breast. Unlike traditional onions, Vidalia onion’s high water content makes them a little bit trickier to store. We recommend wrapping them first in a paper towel and then storing them in the crisper drawer of your fridge for best results.
Back in the day watercress – or scurvy grass as it was also once called – was used to treat just about anything: coughs, colds, tuberculosis, asthma, emphysema, stress, pain, arthritis, diabetes, anemia, constipation, failing eyesight, cancer, heart conditions, eczema, scabies, indigestion, alcoholism, intestinal parasites and kidney and gall stones and was even used as a deodorant for some time! And perhaps some of it holds true. We now know that watercress is an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamins A, B1 and B6, C, E and K and also contains abundant iodine, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. In addition, it also contains a flavonoid called quercetin that is thought to reduce inflammation and serve as a natural anti-histamine.
Share your favorite spring veggies in the comment boards!
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